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Ahmedabad, December 29 (PTI) Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India Asoka Milinda Moragoda said on Wednesday that the dialogue with New Delhi was important for developing trust and understanding between the two countries over the Chinese presence in the island nation.

He said the two countries were trying to develop an understanding to the point of having “red lines that the two sides will not cross.”

China has no security presence in Sri Lanka and India has never told the island nation not to accept Chinese investments, he added.

“Of course, given the nature of the power play in this region, the Chinese presence can be viewed differently. In this context, I think our dialogue with India is what is important – to build trust and understand each other. And, maybe, have some kind of red lines that the two sides won’t cross, ”Moragona said via video link during an interactive session hosted by Gandhinagar-based Rashtriya Raksha University.

“These understandings are what we are trying to develop. I think as long as it exists, we should be able to move forward, because no one has told us, certainly not India, not to accept Chinese investments. China is today one of the biggest investors in the world. But as long as the investment does not create any strategic problem in India, we should be able to sustain this investment, ”he said.

The envoy said that a better, transparent and frank dialogue between India and Sri Lanka would create less risk of misunderstanding.

In what was seen as a major shake-up for New Delhi’s investment plans in Sri Lanka, the Rajapaksa government had unilaterally reneged on a tripartite deal with India and Japan to build a strategic deep-water container port.

Sri Lanka, which agreed in 2019 to develop the Eastern Container Terminal (ECT) in the port of Colombo with India and Japan, canceled the deal and called the ECT a “container terminal. wholly owned by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority ”. Colombo said it would instead develop the port’s West Container Terminal (WCT) with investments from India and Japan. To India’s chagrin, China won the ECT development contract in November.

Moragoda said the development of Colombo port by a Chinese company is “a business investment proposition” even though 70 percent of the 80 percent of the cargo coming into Sri Lanka being transhipped goes to India, adding that “In an economic sense, our basic business model is sourcing from India by transshipment.”

Sri Lanka is primarily focused on how to turn around its economy, and the visit of a delegation led by its Foreign Minister Basil Rajapaksa to the vibrant Gujarat World Summit in January will facilitate Indian investment in the island nation, a he declared.

He said India has a crucial role to play in helping Sri Lanka turn around its economy.

Sri Lankan Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa in New Delhi on a two-day visit met Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Foreign Minister Jaishankar, where they discussed the Four Pillars India’s potential involvement in helping Sri Lanka emerge from its economic crisis. , the fourth related to increased Indian investment in different sectors in Sri Lanka, Moragoda said.

“In this context, on January 9, our Minister of Finance Rajapasksa will travel to Gujarat for the Vibrant Gujarat (World Summit) meeting, where we also welcome a delegation from the private sector. We will also have a tourist presence from Sri Lanka. And that will be the start of activating the fourth pillar to try to encourage investment to come in, ”he said in a response to a question.

The 10th Vibrant Gujarat World Summit will be organized from January 10 to 12.

In a brief address to the assembly on the issue of “Sri Lanka-India relations: the way forward”, Moragoda said that when it comes to economic relations, his country is looking for ways to improve connections in the world. industry linked to infrastructure, more precisely ports.

The country is also looking into the energy sector, with an emphasis on sustainable energy, as some of its regions have the potential to produce up to 5,000 MW of renewable energy, he said. declared.

The two countries also have possibilities in the oil sector, he added.

Tourism is a sector that helps the country’s economy, and Indian tourism is becoming important in this context, he said.

“Before COVID (pandemic), India represented 20 to 25% of tourists coming to Sri Lanka. India is a main market… From Sri Lanka we have pilgrims going to Buddhist sites, we are looking at how we can expand that, not only focusing on Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, but also from other states like Odisha… We’ve also been looking at Gujarat, ”he said.

Moragoda also stressed the need for interpersonal and cultural relationships, as the two countries come from the “same gene pool”. The need to exchange students between the two countries will help build confidence, he said, adding that his country is working with Kerala for such exchange programs.

He pointed out that Sri Lankan students are the main beneficiary of Indian scholarships for military training institutes.